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Animal lovers gather at Petapalooza event

SUWANEE - It's the dog days of summer, and nowhere could that be more evident than at Suwanee's Town Center Park on Saturday.

There were Great Danes and Chihuahuas, poodles and Shih Tzus, English bulldogs and Yorkshire terriers. There were griffons, Labrador retrievers and plenty of mutts.

At what Star 94 General Manager Mark Kanov said will be an annual Petapalooza celebration, more than 3,000 dogs and their owners were listening to music, laying on the grass and learning how to chase down a Frisbee.

Suwanee resident Nancy Morgan brought two dogs - Stubbs, a 2-month-old Welsh corgi-chow mix and Hager, a griffon - to see what the park looked like since the installation of an interactive fountain.

She said the Town Center Park made her feel as if she lived in a small town, and that being there with the dogs was a good way to meet her neighbors.

"It's a really nice day, and everyone's so friendly," she said. "It's a great way to get together in the community. If you have a dog, everyone's more friendly and open."

Alyson Ferwerda and 7-year-old Ryan took Toby, their Yorkshire terrier, to the park. Even after seeing all the other dogs around that day - he particularly liked the Dalmatians, which are bigger in person than they look in the movies - Ryan said he still thinks Toby is the best dog there.

Ferwerda enjoyed talking to other Yorkshire terrier owners and said she may have even gotten an idea for a new haircut the next time Toby gets groomed.

With two Great Danes, Ari and Titan, Atlanta resident Diana Taylor got a lot of attention from kids who wanted to know what her dogs ate and how much they weighed - the answer is 170 pounds for one and 115 for the other, but the smaller one hasn't been weighed since March.

Taylor said her dogs love to socialize and thinks the area needs more dog parks and events like Petapalooza to make Suwanee an excellent animal city.

Not only do kids notice her dogs, but since both are deaf, Taylor has learned to communicate with them in American Sign Language. She said she also meets a lot of deaf people who notice her signing "I love you," "Drink" or "Come" to the creatures.

"It always takes me an hour to get to my car," she said,

laughing.

Brandon Allen, who's studying to train dogs, drove from Kennesaw with Simon Belvedere and Alexander Cerberus, his two English bulldogs.

Simon looks just like Uga, the University of Georgia's mascot, but Allen insists he's much cuter. He said he loved the chance to show off his boys, who were going crazy, running around the field and sniffing everything they came near.

"I don't think there's a better event for dogs," he said. "I'm a dog lover. I'd do anything for my dogs. ... I'll definitely be here next year."

After watching a Frisbee clinic, Norcross resident Akeela Dossa said she'd like to train her Chihuahua, Destiny Yoda, how to catch the flying disc. The pup is a quick learner, she said, and should have no trouble picking up the new skill.

Diana LaPointe, from Alpharetta, said she brought her dog to the event as a treat for his good behavior.

Buck, a Labrador-boxer mix, was skinny and emaciated when she found him, LaPointe said. But he's done a lot better in her care, and LaPointe said she thought he deserved the reward.

All over, there were dogs in costumes and dogs wearing bandannas. Perhaps the most unusual dog of the day was Papacito, a bunny on a leash who earned a free T-shirt for his owner, Suwanee resident Alejandra Linde.

Linde said she also brought Hoover, a German Pointer, to the Petapalooza celebration.

Her son, 7-year-old Christopher, said people kept asking him what kind of dog Papacito was and asking if they could pet him. He takes the bunny for walks around the yard, he said, and Christopher's father, Andrew Linde, said the rabbit uses a litter box at home.

Kanov, the Star 94 executive, said the best part of the event was watching people enjoy themselves. He expected 10,000 people to come to the park before the night was over.

"Seeing parents with their families, with their pets and big smiles on their faces, that says it all," he said.